Pope Francis: Married men could be ordained priests if world’s bishops agree on it



  1. As noted in the article, this relates directly to the right of the faithful to have access to the celebration of the Eucharist. It would be good to have a discussion here about:

    1) how a shortage of priests affects various regions of the world, including some parts of this country;

    2) whether having more priests in places where there may not be an acute shortage might still be desirable in order to avoid megaparishes, and whether this could also become a part of efforts to increase Mass attendance;

    3) how people in the countries where we live would view married priests, e.g., as somehow “less” because the aren’t celibate, as more relatable for many people, etc;

    4) whether it would be possible to have priests who receive less training because their primary ministry would be celebrating the sacraments rather than pastoring a parish, so as to make it possible for them to go through a less demanding and shorter-length (and more realistic?) formation program; and

    5) whether some sort of “worker priest” model, comparable in some ways to the permanent diaconate, would be a prudent approach to making such a model workable.

  2. I just stepped out into the middle of our parish offices to announce this headline to my staff. I am praying that everyone who is interested in finding solutions (not THE solution) to how best to grow Eucharistic communities will email or call or write their bishops to ask them to initiate a discussion of this matter in their diocese. I’m not talking about gathering people to take a vote on this, but to gather people to have a conversation that includes the possibility of ordaining mature married men along with younger men willing to be celibate priests. This archdiocese had several meetings to aid the bishop in what he called a visioning process. Lots of people brought up the shortage of priests. No one brought up the possibility of ordaining some married men. They didn’t bring it up, because they assumed it is off limits. Let’s ask the bishops to make it clear to their people that it is not off limits to have civil conversations about this important topic. But I can hear the objections already:
    1)But we’ve had a nearly thousand year “tradition” (they mean discipline) of limiting ordination to those willing to imitate Jesus for the sake of “service to the kingdom). The Latin rite has had such a discipline, but it is not of the essence of the priesthood or other rites would be unable to ordain married men.
    2)The people “want” someone who can serve them full time. The people want Mass, Confession, Anointing, and the other sacraments requiring the ministry of a priest. Many may prefer a celibate priest, but they will take any priest over no priest.
    3)We can’t afford married priests. This is sheer nonsense. Communities can afford whatever is required to be the church. This objection presumes that the change in discipline would allow young married men with growing children (or the potential for them) to move into a church provided home. Believe me, that will not be how such a change in discipline will occur.

    1. @Father Jack Feehily – comment #2:
      The church simply cannot afford married priests. The church cannot afford to pay its current employees living wages. Most catholic schools do not pay living wages, most parishes do not pay living wages, etc. Our buildings are falling apart because we do not have enough money to repair them.

      1. @Ralph Atkins – comment #8:
        Bishops are being called out on their personal residences costing 2.5 million, 20 million, even 43 million dollars. $43,000,000 to build a house for one man! Tell me again how poor the church is.

  3. Part II of Fr. Jack’s response:

    4)There may be a “women’s rights” objection by people who will oppose any change in discipline that doesn’t address the “right” of women to be ordained. I can only appeal to such individuals to try to distinguish between what may be possible now to what may be possible later.

    5)I foresee many younger priests and bishops claiming that this is not THE SOLUTION so it can’t even be A SOLUTION. They will point out the shortage of ministerial vocations in churches that ordain married men. That is another issue entirely and has to do with the number of those churches able to highly compensate its ministers. This has to do with the impact of materialism on those communities.

    6)A fear will be exhibited by clergy that vocations of younger men willing to be celibate will decrease as a result of the change in discipline. Really, why would that be? If God is calling some men to both celibacy and priestly ministry he ought to be able to communicate that to those who are open to it.

    7)A huge objection will be made to ordaining mature married deacons. “They don’t have adequate training…..many of them can’t preach well….they have their own distinct vocation.” Blah, blah, blah. Lots of celibate priests don’t preach well. Some of them are not good at a lot of things. Married deacons who perceive a call to priestly ordination surely can be provided adequate training in preaching and in celebrating the other sacraments, especially the anointing of the sick.

    Talk it up. This can be done. The needs of God’s Holy Church require serious consideration to a change in this discipline.

  4. We already have several married priests in the military chaplaincy, so it can be done. They provide a dimension to pastoral ministry that we celibate males just don’t have, especially in wisdom from family life.

  5. Count me in. Where do I sign?

    The diocese of East Anglia has had to merge several parishes in the last few years due to a shortage of priests. I would gladly take this on. Of course, my utopian vision also includes liturgy in a language I actually speak, but hey…

  6. The important comment in this article relates to the need of the Bishops’ Conference to seek a local solution to a local problem. It is crucial that access to the Eucharist is not limited by a discipline of the Church; that is the concern of the Movement for Married Clergy here in UK of which I am secretary. It also raises the much wider question of Collegiality, the great unopened gift of the Council. #5 Paul, join us in MMaC.

  7. For Francis, it seems this is a place where collegiality of bishops trumps simple hierarchical dictates, made all the more pressing by the needs of the whole people of God. Reading between the lines, he seems to be saying that while such a decision might be his to make, he will not make it unless and until the breadth of the church has had an opportunity to weigh in.

    All in all, that’s another blow by Francis against the Curialists at the Vatican, where it has seemed to many on the outside that having the right friend in the right place is at least as important as (or maybe MORE important than) having the right idea/proposal/position.

    It also sounds a bit like the survey for the coming Synod on the Family. “Before people go asking for changes or demanding that no changes be made, let’s sit down together, invite the presence of the Spirit, and talk with one another to see what emerges.”

    [Full disclosure: I am in my 25th year of service as an ordained priest of the ELCA portion of the Body of Christ, my 17th year of partnership with my wife, and my 12th year of being a father to my son.]

    1. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #7:

      “For Francis, it seems this is a place where collegiality of bishops trumps simple hierarchical dictates, made all the more pressing by the needs of the whole people of God.”

      This is what struck me, too: Francis is holding the bishops collegially accountable for leading the church. Let’s tabulate this as one more pillar of Francis’ Episcopal Reformation Program. We will now learn how bishops like sitting in the hot seat – quite possibly, a seat located in a substantially smaller bishops’ residence!

  8. Yes, married priests would be good. But why only ordain already married men, why not men who are single and can marry later if they wish … as Fr. Rehwaldt mentioned above, he was a priest before he was married. Is there something disturbing about priests dating? 😉

  9. We have in fact had married priests for many years. Long before the Ordinariate phenomenon, dispensations were being granted to Anglican clergymen who became Roman Catholic and wished to continue ministering as priests. Many of these were and are married. It seems to be an accepted part of life now, certainly in many English dioceses where there is always at least a handful. And the numbers are growing. The diocese of East Anglia, already mentioned in this thread, has for many years had the highest proportion of convert priests in the country — as much as 50% — though they are not all married.

    I believe an early example of this was Archbishop Guilford Young of Hobart, Tasmania, who (with permission) ordained two such former Anglicans well before the Council. Both men later died at around the same time, and Young took the opportunity to survey the people of their two parishes to find out what sort of priest they thought they now needed. Almost unanimously, the people said that they much preferred the married sort to the previous ones!

  10. If i am correct (and if not let me konw!) here in the diocese of ft worth, we have the largest number of former Anglican priests now serving as Roman priests. One is even our chancellor. What do the people think? ‘what’s the big deal?” they will tell you. most are FT while some are PT due to different reasons. As I have written before, from a purely economic point of view, it will not be a drain on most parishes; most of the “mature men” like myself, have full time jobs and would gladly serve because it is our call from God himself. any stipend would be a blessing but unnecessary. With 25 yrs of pastoral experience and a BA and MTS in theology, I am ready to serve if given the chance. As mentioned in posts #7 & #12, papa francis is leading by example: if the bishops request it, he would not ‘stand in the way’. People need the Sacraments,; people need Christ and His grace; people need priests/deacon to serve them; they do not care if they are married or single..only loving, caring, giving and “smell like sheep”.

  11. His Grace, Bishop John of the Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma, OH ordained a married man to the priesthood this past Saturday, and no one blinked an eye it seems. It didn’t get the broad coverage that the recent ordination of a married Maronite deacon to the priesthood received, but it is Holy Week. The Ruthenians are finally starting standing up for themselves. Many years to Father Michael and Pani Deborah Lee!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.